Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Definition of Women Abuse

There are many definitions of woman abuse in intimate partner relationships that have been put forward.

For the purposes of this guideline a broad definition, that incorporates a clear and comprehensive understanding of woman abuse while simultaneously capturing the dynamics of intimate partner violence, has been used.

The following definition was developed by Reynolds and Schweitzer (1998) for The London Abused Women’s Centre:

[Woman abuse is] the intentional and systematic use of tactics to establish and maintain power and control over the thoughts, beliefs, and conduct of a woman through the inducement of fear and/or dependency.

The tactics include, but are not limited to, emotional, financial, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as, intimidation, isolation, threats, using the children and using social status and privilege.

Woman abuse includes the sum of all past acts of violence and the promise of future violence that achieves enhanced power and control for the perpetrator over the partner.

Abusive behaviour does not result from individual, personal or moral deficits, diseases, diminished intellect, addiction, mental illness, poverty, the other person’s behaviour, or external events. (p. 3.)

This definition extends aspects of the definition from the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993).